New mining EO feared to bring more problems in Caraga

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/ 21 July)–Several civic groups in the Caraga region and some residents now living abroad have expressed fears that the new mining policy under Executive Order 79 would create more problems and confusion to towns directly affected by large scale mining operations.

Vicente Cirilo A. Iriberri, chairman of the Cantilan Tourism Council and a member of the diocesan Social Action Center, said that EO 79, which is supposed to give new set of rules and policies, would create more gray areas unless given “further qualifying policy statements.”

“The EO may have the primacy effect over [local] ordinances, but it is not supreme over the protection of the general welfare, which is incumbent upon the local government units, in so far as their respective territorial jurisdiction is concerned,” Iriberri said.

Iriberri added that hopefully the EO is serious about the “no-go mining zones,” noting there are areas in Caraga that needs to be considered.

He urged the government to look closely at critical watershed areas, island ecosystems, key biodiversity areas, prime agricultural areas (including the head waters), integrated fishery zones, local tourism development areas, geohazard zones and ancestral lands.

These are protected by other statutes like the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997, Fisheries Code of 1998, Tourism Act of 2009, Water Code of the Philippines, Local Government Code, Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and so much more, he said.

Mario Llamas, president of the Parish Pastoral Council of St. Isidore Parish in Madrid town, stressed the new mining EO obviously favors the industry and its capitalists.

“It lacks the proper review of the real situation in the area, thus failing to assess our place properly. Farming and fishery sustain the lives of the people here. Our communities and the people within it are in danger but Malacanang failed to see that,” he said.

Fr. John Young, president of the Father Saturnino Urios University, also pointed out that the new EO is geared towards the mining industry.

“There are provisions in the new EO that is good but clearly more of it is in favor of the huge mining corporations. It actually does not address the present problems large scale mining is causing the communities and the nearby towns,” Young said.

Alum Urbiztondo Tuldanes, now based in California, United States, wrote at the social media site Global CARCANMADCARLANon that “mining advantages are only temporary, but the disadvantages would remain forever.”

“I experienced this myself because my father was a miner before, but we remained poor. Had it not been for the agricultural lands owned by my grandfather, our family couldn’t have survived at all,” he said.

Tuldanes said that education, perseverance and hard work freed them from poverty, and not mining.

CARCANMADCARLAN stands for the towns of Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen and Lanuza.

Nikki Arpilleda Orzales-Yu, based in Houston, Texas, also appealed for the pooling of resources and concerted efforts so the government will consider their sentiments.

“Even if we are living abroad, our hearts are with the people back home and that we will continue to push for more support to make our native homes a better place to live not [just] for us but for our children’s future,” Yu said. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)